For most of us, a face mask has become our newest essential accessory, but you don’t need to be a PPE clad essential worker to have noticed face coverings wreaking havoc with your skin. Although they provide us with essential protection from droplet transmitted diseases like COVID-19, face masks come bearing a whole new set of skin problems: mask induced acne, otherwise known as maskne.
WHY does maskne happen?
Acne mechanica (the umbrella term for skin issues caused by pressure) occurs as a result of the friction between a face mask against the delicate skin on your face. The telltale sign associated with this kind of acne is its distribution, confined to the mask’s lines of contact (i.e. not around the mouth but over the bridge of the nose, chin, cheeks). This irritation damages the skin’s barrier by causing micro-tears which facilitate the clogging of pores with dirt and bacteria, the result? a pesky break out.
While the warm weather is ideal for topping up your tan, the humidity of the summer months can be especially brutal for mask wearers. This is because the rise in temperature causes a concoction of makeup, oil, sweat to build up on the skin over the course of the day. Moist conditions are created by breathing into a mask and this causes the skin barrier to weaken. When this happens, the aforementioned dirt and oil are able to penetrate the vulnerable skin barrier and cause an acne flareup.
So, HOW do we avoid it?
- Cleanse gently but thoroughly: Ensure that you cleanse your face twice daily, before and after wearing a mask with mild cleanser, this removes any buildup which could cause acne.
- Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise: Moisturising after washing your face relieves dryness and repairs the skin’s natural protective barrier which prevents unwanted bacteria from entering and causing the acne.
- Lighten up the makeup: Foregoing heavy makeup (or even makeup in general!) greatly reduces the buildup which accumulates under a mask, reducing the possibility of breakout.
- Pick the perfect mask: Obtaining a well fitting mask is imperative to the eradication of maskne: too tight and irritation will occur, too loose and the mask becomes ineffective. Choosing the right fabric may also have a huge influence on the reduction of maskne: recent american studies suggest that silk may be the most effective mask material at preventing the penetration of the droplets which transmit diseases such as COVID19. This is exciting news for us as silk fibres smooth filament makes it much kinder to the skin, causing little to no friction. This lack of irritation eliminates the damage necessary for acne mechanica to occur.
- Keep it clean: Not only will washing your masks after every use (at least daily) reduce the transmission of COVID-19, but will also keep them free of acne-inducing oils and bacteria. This can be done in a washing machine or by hand with hot water and laundry detergent – for best results, look for a detergent which is fragrance-free as leftover fragrance residue may cause irritation.